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Viewing cable 05PARIS676, UMP LEADERS BRICE HORTEFEUX AND BERNARD ACCOYER --

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05PARIS676 2005-02-03 05:05 2011-02-10 08:08 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
Appears in these articles:
http://abonnes.lemonde.fr/documents-wikileaks/article/2011/02/09/wikileaks-les-visiteurs-de-l-ambassade_1477418_1446239.htm
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000676 

SIPDIS 

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL AND INR/EUC 
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB 
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2010 
TAGS: PGOV ELAB SOCI FR
SUBJECT: UMP LEADERS BRICE HORTEFEUX AND BERNARD ACCOYER -- 
DIFFERENT VIEWS OF CHIRAC'S FUTURE AND SARKOZY'S DESTINY 

REF: A. (A) PARIS 521 

B. (B) PARIS 278 

Classified By: Classified by Minister Counselor for Political Affairs J 
osiah Rosenblatt for reasons 1.4 b and d 

SUMMARY 
------- 
1. (C) The views of two leading members of the ruling, 
center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party 
highlight how the unresolved rivalry between Nicolas Sarkozy 
and President Chirac for leadership of the center-right is 
dividing the UMP's elite of elected officials. Brice 
Hortefeux is a key member of the party's executive committee 
and a close advisor to Sarkozy. Bernard Accoyer is the 
President of the UMP party group in the National Assembly. 
Predictably, those like Hortefeux who are committed to 
supporting Sarkozy minimize Chirac's chances of successfully 
pursuing re-election. Accoyer, like the majority of UMP 
elected officials who have supported Chirac in the past, are 
tugged by loyalty to the President and party founder, even if 
they may not be personally enthusiastic about a possible 
Chirac bid for re-election. Following the referendum on the 
proposed constitution next June, the presidential election of 
2007 is the next national election in France. This accident 
of the electoral calendar, along with the unresolved contest 
between Chirac and Sarkozy, are two factors that have 
triggered fairly intense positioning for public favor by the 
contenders for the presidency and their supporters, even 
though the election is still well over two years away. END 
SUMMARY. 


UMP "LOYALISTS" SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT 
------------------------------------- 
2. (C) In a meeting with PolOff on January 19, Accoyer said 
he believed President Chirac would pursue a third term in 
2007. "It's in his character." According to Accoyer -- and 
this view is echoed by many long-time observers of President 
Chirac -- politics is an all-consuming commitment for Chirac, 
and he is therefore unlikely to end his life in politics 
voluntarily (ref (A)). Accoyer also said that Chirac's 
"extraordinary experience" was prompting many members of the 
UMP to encourage the President to "continue serving France," 
notably Speaker of the National Assembly Jean-Louis Debre, a 
leader of the openly pro-Chirac faction. Accoyer said he was 
not a member of the "Chiraquien" faction, but insisted that 
he would "of course support the president" if Chirac should 
be a candidate. Accoyer quickly added that he considered 
himself a "good friend of Nicolas Sarkozy." Like most of the 
362 UMP members of the National Assembly and 152 UMP 
Senators, Accoyer is reluctant to openly take sides in the 
rivalry between Chirac and Sarkozy for leadership of the 
center-right. In a meeting on January 27, Jean-Louis 
Valentin, Debre's Chief of Staff, confirmed that the large 
majority of UMP legislators "don't want to have to choose" 
and that, though there are clearly identifiable "core groups" 
-- "Sarkozist" and "Chiraquien" -- most UMP elected officials 
are determined to straddle the fence for as long as possible. 

"SARKOZISTS" MINIMIZE CHIRAC'S CHANCES 
-------------------------------------- 
3. (C) Not unexpectedly, the view of UMP leaders who have 
committed to supporting Sarkozy in his bid for the presidency 
in 2007 is that President Chirac's chances of successfully 
pursuing re-election are not good. Brice Hortefeux, UMP 
member of the European Parliament and a member of Sarkozy's 
inner circle of political strategists, told PolMinCouns at a 
meeting January 26 that President Chirac's age, public 
sentiment in favor of bringing on the new generation, and 
Sarkozy's strong popularity effectively dash any hopes Chirac 
might have of continuing in power. According to Hortefeux, 
Chirac "cannot risk going down in defeat" as the last act of 
his twelve years as President of France. Hortefeux added 
that Chirac's decision on a third term candidacy would have 
to be decided relatively quickly. An early indication would 
come out in the beginning of 2006 when Chirac presents his 
"wishes" for the year -- since the presidential campaign of 
2007 begins in earnest in the fall of 2006. Hortefeux said 
that the public does not want a confrontation between Chirac 
and Sarkozy, and that the public hopes for an "honorable 
retirement" for Chirac. The personal dimension of the 
rivalry between Chirac and Sarkozy, however, is of such 
intensity that Hortefeux acknowledged that it was difficult 
to imagine Chirac gracefully retiring from the scene and 
ceding center stage without a fight. However, Hortefeux also 
claimed that a poll published the same day in Paris Match, 
which predicts a clear victory for Sarkozy in a presidential 
run-off against Chirac, was a "psychological turning point" 
that will impose acceptance of Sarkozy's near invincibility. 
COMMENT: We have detected no such dramatic effect since the 
publication of the poll, but if such clear-cut margins 
continue to show up in numerous polls, Hortefeux's prediction 
may eventually pan out. END COMMENT. 

WORRIES THE NO'S MIGHT TAKE IT 
------------------------------ 
4. (C) Both Hortefeux and Accoyer reflected the genuine 
worry among political actors in France that a combination of 
frustrations and misperceptions among voters could prompt 
defeat of the proposed EU Constitution in a referendum 
expected to be held in early June. Hortefeux recalled prior 
referendums, including the referendum of 1969 in which 
dissatisfaction and desire for change unexpectedly sent 
General de Gaulle into retirement, as cautionary precedents 
for the unpredictability of voter behavior. Accoyer opined 
that the French experience in North Africa and with North 
Africans would affect voters' decision on the referendum. 
Accoyer said that the war in Algeria is what "the French 
remember about Arabs," and further explained that "the French 
public confuses the Turks with the Arabs." He said he feared 
resentment against immigrants of North African origin would 
prompt many Frenchmen and women to vote against the proposed 
EU Constitution. COMMENT: The huge investment in voter 
education (ref (B)) that is part of the government's 
referendum effort also reveals the extent of establishment 
apprehension that voters' decision on the proposed 
constitution will be skewed by misinformation or feelings 
about unrelated matters. END COMMENT. 

ALLEGING CONTINUING STEREOTYPES 
------------------------------- 
5. (C) Turning away from internal politics, Accoyer 
volunteered that he continued to receive complaints from 
French "constituents and friends" who live in the U.S. that 
instances of gratuitous rudeness motivated by anti-French 
prejudice continue, as does dismissive public commentary and 
jokes. Accoyer made a point of insisting that the problem 
was not all that serious -- but still unpleasant because 
unnecessary and unjustified. He accused his own 
fellow-citizens of not appropriately sympathizing with 
Americans. Without making any concrete suggestion as to 
exactly how they might do so, Accoyer said he hoped that 
Presidents Chirac and Bush might "do something" to improve 
Americans' perception of the French and vice versa, perhaps 
in the context of their upcoming meeting. Accoyer also 
expressed the hope that relations between the U.S. and France 
would improve. He agreed that differences over the war in 
Iraq were "behind us," but acknowledged that the 
"psychological" difference between America's "war on terror" 
and France's "fight against terrorism" keeps it difficult for 
now to put the relationship between the two countries on the 
same wavelength. Accoyer insisted that France's commitment 
to fighting terrorism in all its forms was unconditional, but 
that, for the French, terrorism remains in the realm of law 
enforcement and threats against security in civil society 
rather than that of war and threats against national security. 

COMMENT 
------- 
6. (C) Hortefeux hitched his wagon to Sarkozy's star over 
twenty years ago and, like other UMP members of Sarkozy's 
inner circle, he is insistently "on message" when it comes to 
assessing the viability of other candidacies, especially that 
of President Chirac. Accoyer, a medical doctor from the 
conservative, Haute Savoie region in the foothills of the 
Alps, is typical of the bulk of UMP elected officials -- 
clearly tugged by the loyalty he feels he owes the president 
and party founder Jacques Chirac, even if not personally 
enthusiastic about the prospect of supporting Chirac for a 
third term. Appearing on French TV's leading political forum 
on January 27, Interior Minister and Chirac loyalist 
Dominique de Villepin raised his profile as a contender for 
high office -- possibly as Chirac's next prime minister and 
thereafter possibly as Chirac's successor -- in an effort to 
counter the growing perception that a Sarkozy succession is 
inevitable. Sarkozy spent the week-end of January 29 - 30 
energetically campaigning in northern France, assiduously 
working to maintain his credibility as the center-right's 
rightful leader, likely winner, and force for change. The 
intensity of campaign activity, even though the Presidential 
election of 2007 is over two years away, is due in part both 
to the unresolved rivalry between Chirac and Sarkozy and to 
the electoral calendar. After the referendum on the proposed 
EU Constitution next Spring, the Presidential election of 
2007 is the next national election in France. (National 
legislative elections are expected in June 2007, just after 
the presidential election.) END COMMENT. 
Leach